Hiking the Salkantay

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In addition to my time spent in the Sacred Valley and other parts of Peru my biggest reason for wanting to come here was the multi-day hiking trek to Machu Picchu.

Not because MP was a must visit for me but there was something drawing me towards almost a pilgrimage walk through the beautiful country of Peru and landing at the doorstep of one of the 7 wonders of the world after several days.

For those of you that are able but not have not considered doing a multi-day hiking trek or backpacking trip let me be one to inspire you to consider doing it.  A trip like this will grow you in a positive way.  It’s not always a life changing experience (though it can be) but I promise you will evolve as a person and connect with yourself and the world differently after going on a trip like this.

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There’s something about getting dirty, not showering, walking, and having the time away from technology, your normal routines, and the time to let your mind and self just be that will forever shift your perspective on life.  For myself the Salkantay Trek was more “life evolving” than “life changing” however as I walked and walked it left an impact on me and who I am as a person that will forever be engrained in me.  Enough about why you should trek let’s talk about and share the details of life on the Salkantay Trek in Peru!

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There are several options for how you can trek to MP and the Salkantay Trek is one of several.  I chose this one because permits were filling up for the Inca Trail, I had several friends who have gone on this one and recommended it, and there was an extra day of hiking and camping which I was all about.

To do this trek I would say you need to either be a seasoned hiker or in very good shape.  Our friend who was on the trek had actually never hiked before and while it was a difficult trek at times for her due to higher altitudes than she had ever been to she did awesome!

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My point in sharing this is you should be in shape but you can easily train and get into shape to prepare yourself if you’d like to go.  We saw people from the age of 18 to their late 60’s out there with us and TONS of people in their 40’s and 50’s.  Be curious and never assume you can’t do it!

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My Top 7 Salkantay Trek Highlights:

  1. Luga Humantay.  Well you can’t go on the Salkantay Trek and not be mesmerized by this gorgeous turquoise lake just a few miles into the hike on day one.  It’s even better in person than the photos look.

  2. Tent camping at 14.5k fee.  WOW!  This was a true mountaineering adventure. It’s cold, windy, and you are in the middle of nowhere.  It was beautiful, a powerful experience, and one that will leave you breathless (literally and figuratively!)

  3. Soccer with Allerto.  This is a draw to the Salkantay Trek over the Inca Trail if you also want to connect with Peruvians as you go.  We slept in people’s yards, purchased fresh avocado’s from local farmers, did a coffee tasting, and got the chance to play a soccer game with a ten year old Peruvian boy named Allerto.  He made us look foolish and it was a great time.  The soccer game with him was just one of several very authentic local experiences that we got to have as a result of the Salkantay Trek.

  4. Salkantay Pass: Reaching 15,300 feet in altitude really makes you appreciate your breath and how easy it is to breath at sea level.  It’s also gorgeous as you stare up into the Andes Mountain Range, see powder blue glaciers, and traverse through the alpine tundra.  It’s also the highest point of the trek and you’ll reach it on the morning of day two!  From there it’s down down down :).

  5. The final railroad push to Aguas Calientes. After ten to twelve miles of hiking in the morning I was a little hesitant to feel excited about a three hour hike along a railroad track to the town of Aguas Calientes, which was our final push to get to MP.  However I was severely mistaken.  It’s a beautiful walk through the canyons of Peru and you can feel the energy as you move closer to the buzz of MP.  You are also walking with other trekkers and backpackers as buses and trains loaded up with people coming in the for the day to see MP as you walk by covered in dirt and with sore ankles and calves to prove the fact you have been out in the woods for four days now.  There’s something rewarding about arriving to Aquas on foot and this final push creates a sense of community that you can only feel if you go and experience for yourself!

  6. The changing landscapes.  You hike past epic waterfalls, up gorgeous mountains, down through the rainforest, and back up through the jungle.  You hike on roads, railroad tracks, hiking trails, and slosh through mud, dust, wind, and in our case a little snow!  In just five days you get to see the ever changing beautiful landscapes of our planet and specifically Peru firsthand and up close and personal.  It’s a powerful experience.

  7. Hiking up Huyana Picchu and to the Caverns.  Limited to 200 people per slot this steep, sketchy hike is not for anyone with a fear of heights or a lack of water.  To be perfectly honest I thought it was downright dangerous due to several large groups of mission trips with dozens of teenagers who didn’t know proper hiking etiquette.  However if you can let teenagers be teenagers and save your own experience for yourself there’s something fitting about ending your five day trek to MP with hiking up either Huyana or MP Mountain.  It was an exhausting and intense 2.5 hour hike that included steep terrain, bouldering onto the summit, climbing up and down log ladders, and seeing a teenager throw a football off the summit and almost knocking a hiker down a hill.  

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Yet this is life…ups and downs, twists and turns, good and bad emotions.  At the end of the day finishing a 5 day hiking trek shouldn’t be easy and I can’t think of a more fitting physical, and also mental challenge, than going up a steep summit at MP being surrounded by tourists when you had been in the woods for five days.

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it’s all part of the MP and trekking experience!  I won’t tell you the Salkantay is better than the Lares or Inca Trail but I will say they all have their positives and doing this type of trek will leave you forever changed in a positive way in your life.

You can do this solo or with a guide and we had a grand time with Joyce from SAM Travel Peru though several seasoned backpackers seemed to be having a blast on their own.  The Inca Trail requires a guide just FYI.

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I love to adventure outdoors, travel to gain perspective, and to evolve as a person and this trek gave me those in more ways than I could ever hope for nor imagine in my life.

Get outside, get dirty, get sore, and get to trekking.  Make sure your teenager leaves the football at home though :)

The cavern trail at Machu Picchu.

The cavern trail at Machu Picchu.

Questions about the Salkantay Trek?  Leave your comments below!

Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,

Mike R and the Hashtag 59 Team